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Jon Rahm’s ball mark: To penalize or not to penalize?



Another golf tournament, another rules controversy.

Did Jon Rahm violate the Rules of Golf en route to his six-stroke victory at the Irish Open? Jimmy Walker and Brandel Chamblee certainly think so. The European Tour, rules official Andy McFee, and Rahm himself? Not so much.

But here’s the thing: In the wake of the USGA’s late-April “Lexi Thompson rule.” (Decision 34-3/10), if the rules official didn’t see evidence on video and Rahm, in his “reasonable judgment,” believes he replaced the ball appropriately, the case is closed.

Chief referee Andy McFee cleared Rahm of any wrongdoing.


Players “should not be held to the degree of precision that can sometimes be provided by video technology,” the USGA and R&A determined.

“So long as the player does what can reasonably be expected under the circumstances to make an accurate determination, the player’s reasonable judgement will be accepted, even if later shown to be wrong by the use of video evidence.”

When McFee and company determined Rahm “did what was expected,” and Rahm stated his intention was to replace his ball where it had been previously, the discussion effectively ended.

But what’s irksome to, say, Brandel Chamblee, is the “later shown to be wrong by the use of video evidence” element of Rahm’s re-marking.

Chamblee had this to say.

“The integrity of the competition was certainly at risk, and the dynamic of the competition completely changed from what it should have been to one person’s interpretation, and in my opinion, a wrong interpretation of it. Andy McFee certainly has a great reputation administering the rules in a fair manner, but I believe he got this one wrong.”

“It wasn’t millimeters. It was inches, probably two, three inches that this ball was misplaced. So, he broke the rule. He should have been penalized, which means he wouldn’t have been playing with a five-shot lead. He would have been playing with a three-shot lead.”

OK. But what if video does show Rahm misplaced his ball by “three inches?” Under the new Decision, what could be done, short of Rahm revising his opinion and retroactively calling a penalty on himself?

Here’s the full incident, c/o Golf Channel.

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  1. geohogan

    Jul 21, 2020 at 10:55 pm

    and with another infraction at the Memorial
    it is confirmed; Rahm is a number one.


  2. Ronald Montesano

    Jul 16, 2017 at 6:32 am

    No idea what I’m missing here. Are these wags suggesting he mismarked it toward the hole? To the side of its original place of rest?

  3. Jacked_Loft

    Jul 14, 2017 at 10:38 am

    He had a six shot lead, it was raining, he had to move all over the place just NOT to step on his partners line, he rushed through the whole marking routine, it was a mini putt, he wanted to get in the clubhouse.

    and he probably just didn’t think about it. He wanted to do it right but missed it by a whisker so Andy nailed it.

  4. ParHunter

    Jul 14, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Are we sure we haven’t done the save thing without noticing? I recently stepped up to my ball which missed to the right and marked it ‘behind the ball’ but as I just walked up to my ball and did not walk around to have the ball between me and the hole, I actually marked at a slight angle. When I marked the ball I was convinced I marked behind the ball – I only realised it when I stepped away.

    I think a lot of us have done the same without noticing.

  5. Ram it home

    Jul 13, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    As a professional, he should have called it on himself. That’s what honor is. Especially after hearing about it.

  6. exrog

    Jul 12, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    2 stroke penalty absolutely

  7. Bob Jones

    Jul 12, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Yesterday I played with my Men’s Club and asked the guys if I had to replace my ball in front of my ball marker or could I put it anywhere I wanted to like the pros do. Unfortunately, we play by the rules, so I had to put my ball where it belongs.

  8. Noble Free

    Jul 12, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Video evidence BS is just that…BS. It’s silly. If video evidence is going to be the standard going forward, then let’s go back to all the previous screw ups and pull the titles. There is still honor in this game and the things unwittingly not seen by the player or group of players that are playing together should be forgotten. Takes away from the purity of the game. Let instant replay rules infractions stay in football and basketball. Golf is played outside in native areas. It will never be perfection. That’s what makes it perfect. All of you naysayers should go wash your hands over and over and never step on cracks.

  9. Adam

    Jul 12, 2017 at 11:11 am

    He’s in the final group. There are lots of bumps and marks at the end of the day around the cup. A big bump or depression could make even a 2 footer difficult.

    A big time college coach recently told me that they constantly tell their players, “Don’t be that guy,” i.e. don’t be the one who’s always trying to shave on the rules.

  10. Big Richard Cox

    Jul 12, 2017 at 10:48 am

    It’s one foot putt, get over it Chamblee. Be more concerned that you look like your wife’s Grandfather.

  11. Pavel

    Jul 12, 2017 at 8:47 am

    Imho, the ruling should be consistent between Rahm and Lexi. Either penalize Rahm or give Lexi her win back. Seems clear to me that Rahm did exactly what Lexi did in terms of replacing the ball incorrectly. 😉

  12. Zerpersande

    Jul 12, 2017 at 8:33 am

    IMO, there is a difference in the angle of the putter face from when he moved the marker to when he replaced it. Specifically it looks like the face is noticeably more closed which would result in the marker itself being replaced further back then it was when placed beside the ball. If you do some rough experimentation with this sequence you will find that when the ball is then replaced in FRONT of the marker it ends up being very close to the original spot.

    That being said, why the hell would he do this? If he wants to side mark his ball, fine. But REMEMBER!!! And see where your blade is pointing when you move the marker and replace it. In the end, by the rules, it’s impissible for me to say. Probably more than a coupke of mm, more like a couple of centimeters at the most. This was just stupid on his part, so aybe in that count akone he should be penalized. Undue care when marking and replacing.

  13. No3Jacks

    Jul 12, 2017 at 7:42 am

    You know what they say about opinions, “they’re like a$$holes”, everybody has one, so here’s mine: PENALTY!!!

  14. Nigel Kent

    Jul 12, 2017 at 4:33 am

    When I first learnt the game it was explained that the marker ALWAYS went down directly behind the ball in a line to the hole . Then if it interfered with someone else’s putt it could be moved sideways from that spot .
    How did these “pros” go through junior, amateur, tour school ,etc, without learning the basics ?

  15. Jay

    Jul 11, 2017 at 11:33 am

    Honestly, it’s a 2 foot putt, and the difference in marks is millimeters. Play on. Great explanation by Andy. Is Brandel watching the same video? If you think that’s 3″ that’s crazy and/or your vision is impaired. I wish the stickler/nitpickers would take a long walk off a short pier.

    • joro

      Jul 12, 2017 at 10:10 am

      You are right, it was only a couple of feet. They would do a lot of good by giving those 2 footers like most reg people do. How many have been missed to lose tournaments and that would prevent that. It would also prevent controversy like this. What do you think about touching a grain of Sand in the Trap, Disqualification , or play on. It is the damn stupid rules that are the problem.

  16. E

    Jul 11, 2017 at 10:27 am

    A clear penalty. What the heck was Rahm thinking, but then the officials let him get away with it. Terrible decision and actions from all involved. He had a big lead, so it probably wouldn’t have mattered, so he should have been penalized.

  17. Dave R

    Jul 10, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Brandel shut up .

  18. JThunder

    Jul 10, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Chamblee says that was “three inches”??? Seriously? That means his ball marker would have to be SIX inches wide, if it’s a three inch difference marking side versus front.

    If that’s a poker chip, it’s 1″ or less.

    Brandel’s wife must be sad.

  19. Lenny G

    Jul 10, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    He did not replace the ball where it was moved from (from the side of the ball to the back of the ball). He should have known better, and owned up to it. It was brought to his attention as immediately as possible, not the same as Lexi, where if anything, she should only have been assessed a 2 stroke penalty. Rahm should have been assessed a 2 stroke penalty because he didn’t follow the rule, whether or not he gained anything. Golf is supposed to be the honorable sport, at least that’s what they say. Though the handicap system is set up to reduce cheating, which is not honorable; nor is calling DJ, on national TV, a cheater, by assessing him the penalty in the US Open, when he was cleared by the marshal on hand, as well as the video, which didn’t prove that he had caused the ball to move. So much for the USGA believing in golfers’ honor ! Still, a 2 stroke penalty to Rahm.

    • Lee Shaw

      Jul 12, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      Don’t agree coz I was there but then again the penalty on DJ last year IMO was also a joke.

  20. Dj

    Jul 10, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Pretty obvious to me the ball wasn’t replaced. With current rules, it should be a penalty, no question.

  21. Chris B

    Jul 10, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    From what I understand when the new rules come in they won’t be able to use video evidence in situations like this. Did he gain anything? No. He probably did move it nearer the hole though even if it was only half an inch.

    It’s a bit worrying though that 2 high profile players can’t do one of the most basic parts of the game. I’m not including DJ in this because he did nothing wrong.

    I watched a lot of the Irish, Rahms behaviour was poor all week, bashing the greens, he didn’t should fore once. He is a Young man, I hope someone has a word with him.

    • CB

      Jul 11, 2017 at 6:15 am

      from one chris b to another chris b – i totally agree with you. Poor etiquette from Rahmbo.

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In our forums, our members have been discussing Kevin Kisner’s new Callaway X Forged CB irons which he has in the bag at this week’s CJ Cup. WRXers have been commenting on the switch and the clubs themselves in our forums.

For lots more photos, check out the full thread here.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

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Entire Thread: “Kevin Kisner’s new Callaway X Forged CB irons”

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We hope this golfer didn’t take the ultra-premium golf equipment plunge before sending his clubs to a watery grave. Either way, this was an expensive (and strangely calm) reaction to a bad round.

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